7 Ways Physical Security Has Changed as a Result of the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Danielle Whittaker, Marketing Executive at Kingdom Services Group

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, no one could predict how things would change. Closures of stores, work-from-home mandates, and limited outside activity meant the world changed nearly overnight. This left some security professionals scrambling.

It didn’t come as a surprise when security personnel working in hospitals, social care, courts, government estate buildings, grocery stores, transport, and critical national infrastructure were deemed key workers and weren’t exempt from the stay-at-home lockdown.

While it may have seemed like business as usual for some, many found their jobs in question. Now that lockdowns worldwide are easing, we can truly see the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on physical security.

1. Increase in Remote Working

If there’s one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has changed, it’s the way we work. Many business owners have found their employees can work just as well from home as going into the office every day. This has left millions of pounds of business property vacant and, therefore, open to security risks.  

Foot patrol teams and 24-hour security guards have become essential in these areas to deter crime and even squatters on these premises and potential document theft that may only be stopped by the physical presence of a security guard.

In fact, according to a study by intuition.com, 62% of employees now expect their employers will allow them to work remotely moving forward. While overall this may reduce the need for onsite security guards, businesses still need to ensure they have a security policy in place for those working remotely. This includes assessing the physical security of the remote working area and potentially providing secure areas for sensitive data and devices when not in use.

2. Importance of Security Guards in Public Spaces

With mandatory masks, hand sanitizer, and temperature checks at nearly every public entrance, the need for security guards in public spaces has increased exponentially since the start of the pandemic.

The emergence of ‘COVID Chaperones’, who are a blend of bouncers, retail floorwalkers, and security guards, has meant public spaces have been more closely monitored than ever before. These chaperones, who, unlike security guards, have generally not undertaken specific training, are being tasked with managing queues and gatherings to maintain social distancing rules.

Many security guards have also faced backlash from members of the public after asking them to adhere to these requirements, with some altercations going viral over social media.

3. Event Security has Bounced Back

The cancellation of events like the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Coachella Festival, Wimbledon, sports games, and music tours saw the events industry standstill, and with that, so did event security.

However, now that many countries have eased their restrictions, previously canceled events are going ahead and significantly more people are attending, making the risk of COVID-19 transmission more likely.

Risk management and mitigation strategies are now especially important in this area, with good communication between events teams essential from the beginning planning stages to the end of the event. These extra responsibilities for event security teams include temperature screenings, vaccination checks, and staying up-to-date with the COVID-19 guidelines for each event.

4. Industries Are Changing

While physical security has increased in public environments, being stuck at home has led to an inevitable growth in online shopping that’s unlikely to return to pre-pandemic numbers. Statista has reported over 70% of people are buying more online than ever before compared to 41% in May 2020.  

Retailers like Sears, JCPenney, and more filing for bankruptcy in 2021 has meant a loss of jobs not only to their retail staff but also to their security personnel. Whether this will cause a decreased need for physical security is yet to be seen, but it’s certainly something to consider.

5. More and More CCTV

A research study conducted by ProVigil found that 40% of businesses have changed their security strategy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes installing security cameras, adding security guards, and installing alarm systems.

As technology advances, so do the options for security professionals. With the invention of AI CCTV cameras, business owners now can conduct 24-hour surveillance that can detect and notify about incidents in real-time for faster, more reliable security processes.

In the same study by ProVigil, more than half of the 40%, who have said they made changes to their physical security strategy, indicated that they installed new video cameras. CCTV has emerged as the most common way that business leaders have decided to strengthen their security.

6. Training and Welfare

With the world of physical security changing, it makes sense that many businesses are looking to change the training they give to their security employees. This includes monitoring the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), temperature screening, managing occupancy and even assisting in contact tracing.

Being clear on how to adhere to new security policies so both security personnel and those they are protecting are safe is of the utmost importance to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions and the increasing need for security services, many security officers are now finding themselves working alone, which has brought about the issue of employee mental wellbeing.

To help with this, many more businesses are now providing mental health and wellbeing training to their employees, along with physical security training so that they can be prepared in their new working environment.

7. The Future of Physical Security

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how many things work and physical security is no different.

Technology around physical security is constantly evolving, with public spaces like hospitals now using mask-detection algorithms to ensure masks are worn, and public transport cameras detecting social distancing.

Many security systems also now have the ability to package video surveillance data for an incident, making processes faster and therefore more cost-effective.

Physical security companies will need to be increasingly adaptable to new challenges and technologies while also being realistic about their capabilities.

The demand for physical security is ever-growing in a post-COVID world. With remote working leading to more vacant high-risk properties and easing restrictions giving way to more widely attended events, more people and more innovation are needed to keep spaces safe. Physical security companies will need to be increasingly adaptable to new challenges and technologies while also being realistic about their capabilities.

Danielle Whittaker is a Marketing Executive at Kingdom Services Group, a market-leading provider of specialist services in the UK. Kingdom Security offers integrated security solutions, including mobile response units and security personnel, to high-profile clients across many business sectors. Danielle has extensive experience writing about security from physical security to high-tech CCTV systems.

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